| Weekend in the Sawatch Range
As my roommate and I were watching Thursday Night Football and screaming at the TV because of the Saints inability to convert a crucial 4th and inches play, we decided in the span of about 30 seconds that going into the mountains for a few days was a good idea. An hour later we were in the car and driving from the Springs to Buena Vista. We arrived in the area at about 0130. We found this canoe rental place (or something, i dont know, it was really dark) and slept in our car in the parking lots until 0530 when we woke to drive to the TH for Shavano/Tab.We noticed on our drive that the summit of some big mountains that we suspected to be our targets were covered in this soft shiny stuff aka snow.
We hit the trail at about 0630. The first two hours of the hike were great. The sun was shining with no clouds in the sky. Things were looking up.
As we got farther into the trail the temperature started dropping rapidly and we noticed clouds forming in the valley right next to us.
For the next hour and a half or so my roommate and I gutted it out in freezing cold and snowy conditions. There was a good 2-3 inches of snow on the ground so any clear trail that was there had been snowed on, so we just put our heads down and started scrambling up because we figured thats probably where the summit would be. Finally the summit came into view.
on the summit of Shavano
The plan for the day had been to summit both, but that wasn't going to fly. Not that day. It had been a miserable 3 hr 30 min to the summit. My feet were feeling the cold temperatures, even with gloves my hands were feeling it too, and my roommate had had enough of the cold and was headed down. It looked as if the clouds were there to stay so I agreed to just take the one summit for the day. Looking back, this was the best decision given the circumstances. Of course as we hustled down the temperatures shot back up and we were soon peeling off layers. As we drove away on the highway the peaks looked as if they were in mid-summer form, not even giving a hint of the conditions that had been there earlier. Of course, that's how it always works. We stopped in Buena Vista at this really good Mexican restaurant and had lunch. Casa del Sol I think was the name. Good little place.
After a 6 hr 10 min hike we headed to Cottonwood Lake to set up camp for the night and fish. We got to the lake and fished for the next few hours. My roommate taught me how to fish and I got my first trout. After seeing Mt. Princeton on the ride over to Cottonwood I had decided I wanted to hike it the next morning. After a night of hot dogs over the fire I settled into my tent anxious for the next days hike.
I set out the next morning to hike Princeton. The TH was about a 25 minute drive from our campsite. I started a bit later than most hikers would suggest, 0838. I figured that the day before we had started early and gotten the worst of the weather so I slept in and started a little later in hopes of having all the bad weather being gone by the time I got to the summit. Lucky for me (spoiler alert), I guessed right.
Again, the weather was amazing the first couple hours of my hike, although this time around I was skeptical that it would hold up. The first couple hours are just hiking up a 4WD road that my Subaru Outback could have easily handled, so that made me a little frustrated but it was too late to worry about that. The trail splits off the road at a section of rock stairs in the side of the road. As long as you stay on this trail you'll go straight to the top. The ridge can get a little interesting (or at least more interesting than the dirt road I hiked for 3 miles on) but nothing that is beyond Class 2. The weather kept holding up for me which was awesome.
All of a sudden clouds moved in and totally blocked the summit from view. All the people I asked coming down were warning me of freezing temperatures, possible snow, and limited visibility. This really got me going. I was not about to do 2 summits in 2 days and not get a single good summit view (not that I could do anything about it...) so turning around did cross my mind, for about a second then I decided that was a bad idea. About 20 minutes from the summit all clouds cleared, temperature rose significantly and I found myself on the summit of Mt. Princeton with the most beautiful weather I had even had on a 14er summit.
I stayed on the summit for a good 40 minutes which is the longest I had ever stayed. The weather was amazing, the views were great, and there were no clouds looming in the distance. A very nice couple shared a PB&J with me and a couple cliff bars. After I had my fill of Colorado scenery (at least for the moment anyways) I started my descent. I took the more straight down trail instead of the one that goes along the ridge. If you are going up the mountain take the trail that goes left at the little rock wall because it is much easier. Although, going down on the other trail on the way down makes more sense because it shaved a lot of time off my descent. The weather was amazing from start to finish as I walked down to my car. For those wondering it took me 7.0 hours RT.
A nice couple that I had met earlier in the day gave me a ride the last mile down the mountain which was a relief. My legs were mad at me for having abused them like I had so I wasn't too concerned about taking a ride down. After getting a Gatorade and a bathroom break I headed back to camp where we fished some more, made turkey sandwiches and packed up camp.
With my good friend deploying very soon it was great to get a few days just to talk and see all the awesome things Colorado has to offer. Having grown up in an area with nothing like Colorado has it is always breathtaking to see such things. Remember to be thankful for what God has blessed you with because there are so many people that would love to be in your shoes. Finally, after a good couple days we gassed up and headed for the Springs.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):